Midwest Minute- May 11/16- "Define Success"
10 May 16 09:13 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Define Success

Our border community is patiently waiting for the Royal Bank Cup tournament to begin and Editor Mike of the Lloydminster Source asked me to write a hockey related column this week.

I hesitated, feeling it would be a challenge to draw a relationship between real estate (which is what I am supposed to commenting on every week) and hockey; but he’s the boss when it comes to what gets published in the paper so here we are.

I actually have no problem speaking about lessons learned from hockey. In fact, in a former career I was often called upon to give keynote addresses at conferences across Canada and sometimes pointed out the parallels between coaching minor hockey players and managing a workforce.

First of all, there are actually two teams. One plays the game on the ice; the other either criticizes or encourages from the stands. Both need to agree on a strategic direction or the program will fail.

Often there is no problem in arriving at a consensus in the dressing room about the purpose of the team. It’s the people upstairs that cause grief if their behavior is allowed to get off track.

So I would start every season with two meetings. One with the players; the second with the parents. Every healthy relationship pivots on trust and good communication. My teams would not play the first game of the season without all stakeholders buying in to the same goals.

Only once did I have parents pull their child from the program believing their son would get a better opportunity elsewhere. Two weeks later the kid came to me in the rink shyly asking if he could re-join the team.

I agreed on two conditions. First, it would be subject to an affirmative vote of his peers in the dressing room. That turned out to be an interesting discussion to sit in on but eventually all agreed to welcome him back.

Secondly, his parents had to meet with the coach and I. They did, and subsequently became strong supporters of all the young players on the ice.

I have had the privilege of managing some elite youth athletes and watch them go on to the junior, college, and pro ranks. But the ones I learned the most from were the kids who were left off the higher tiered team one year for one reason or another.

It was an economic time as bad as this one for rural communities. Most families wanted to keep their children in after-school activities but were struggling to afford it.

If you think your child doesn’t hear about household finances, you are wrong. Of course they hope to play with their friends but at the same time don’t want the family to hurt because of the cost created by their participation in a sport.

All the towns in the region were impacted so it was rather easy to map out a season long strategy with my fellow managers in the league of how we could cut costs of travel, tournaments, prizes, even after-game food and drink for our young athletes but still provide them with a quality experience.

We played competitively on the ice but treated the other teamsplayers like favorite cousins off it. Life friendships were formed between players and parents both across communities.

There are many stories from that particular group of rowdies. One thing is for sure, they taught us adults more about success than we ever taught them.

I still see many of them today. The boys have become men with their own families. All are contributors to the communities they live in, often in leadership roles, doing the hard stuff.

An exceptional number are self-employed. Not sure why, although I hope it is because they learned to be proud of who you are, the skills you have, and confident that no matter what hits life may throw at you, nothing is more satisfying than achieving results with others.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- May 4/16 - "You Just Have to Laugh at Yourself Sometimes"
04 May 16 09:56 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

You Just Have to Laugh at Yourself Sometimes

We work in a serious business crammed full of emotion and stress. But there are simply days when no matter how focused you think you are, life throws yet another curve ball. Here are some of my swings and misses from over the years.

I was asked to give an opinion of value on a family home in a Midwest community and the owner gave me their civic address. He would be off to work by the time I would arrive so simply said the door would be unlatched and I could lock up when I left.

I got to the address about 8:30 in the morning. As promised the door was unlocked and I proceeded into the home deciding to look at the kitchen first. Funny thing was that I could hear the shower running with a female singing. “That’s odd!” I thought, “the owner is a bachelor, maybe he had a friend staying over?

All of a sudden it hit me. I was at 104 4th Avenue East. Where I was supposed to be according to the file prepared by my assistant was 104 4th Avenue West. I don’t think I have ever walked backwards so quietly in my life, gently closing the outside door, and practically running to get my truck out of the driveway before someone noticed.

Our Group covers about 5,000 sq miles on northeast Alberta, the City of Lloydminster, and northwest Saskatchewan. I consider exploring new territory to be an adventure but sometimes one should probably exercise some caution. I was east of Turtle Lake on the end of long winding trail on the forest fringe looking at some land a client wanted listed when a major thunderstorm hit. It was coming down so hard that the wipers on the truck couldn’t keep up.

My first thought was “no problem, I will wait it out” when a second opinion from the other side of the brain suggested that a strategic retreat before the road became impassable might be in order. Problem was the trail was so narrow there was nowhere to turn around. Again my ability to travel in reverse came through but it was tense the last half mile as water covered most of the road. It was two weeks before it dried up enough so I could get back into the location and take some pictures.

Another time in the winter I was driving across a snow filled stubble field looking at the perimeter of a newly subdivided acreage near Lashburn when the front end of the truck dropped hard into a drainage ditch. There I sat with the frame hung up over the edge. Good thing the local tow operator was also a client so he came quickly to my rescue but I’m sure he wondered about my navigation skills!

Realtors often work evenings. It’s a blessing when we can get home for supper and catch up a bit with family before heading back out. However, this particular time I learned a lesson I will try my best not to repeat. You see, there were fresh baked muffins on the counter and I indulged in not just one but two for dessert.

Fast forward an hour and while I’m sitting with a couple discussing their home, I can feel my stomach starting to do gymnastics. I knew what was coming and fortunately, I was able to finish my work with them, then beat a hasty path to the bathroom of the local convenience store.

When I got home I asked my wife what was in the muffins? A mixture of carrot, pineapple, and bran, she said. Why?

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- April 27/16- "The Apple Tree"
26 April 16 12:39 PM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

The Apple Tree

The call came in one spring will you sell a quarter of land for me?” The owner was from Manitoba, had recently inherited it from her aunt, and thought the sale proceeds would be put to better use closer to home.

I asked her for a bit of history on the property. All she knew was that the aunt and her sisters had once lived on the site but details about that time were vague in the family. Apparently a distant cousin had been renting it the last few years but had let it go over the winter when he retired from farming. She had never seen it in person and to her knowledge mom hadn’t been back for a long time either.

That struck me as a little odd honestly. Although there have been thousands of prairie folk emigrate to other parts of Canada, they often return on a semi-regular basis to see how the ol’ homestead is fairing and to reminisce.

I always want to see a property before expressing an opinion on its value or proposing an appropriate marketing plan. No one parcel is the same and even though we can gather a fair amount of detail on line these days, nothing replaces feet on the ground. Too many times owners rely on coffee shop talk or the speculation of some urban banker who wouldn’t know which end of a cow to feed, but I digress.

The best part of my job is seeing new property for the first time and systematically developing a perspective on its value in today’s market. Appraisers call what they do as purely logical; but personally I see it as both an art and a science.

I particularly enjoy working on farmland, likely because of my own roots in the country but also to get a sense of its history. This region has only been settled for just over a hundred years; really not a long time in the scheme of things. At one point almost every quarter has had someone living on it. For sure, the ownership has changed over the years but there usually is at least one story that comes with the land.

It was easy to see why the builder had chosen this particular location to locate a house as just behind it was a beautiful vista overlooking the valley below. The once majestic maple trees were now only suitable for firewood, and what had been the garden was overgrown by caragana. Tucked back in the corner was several apple trees. It looked like they may have been once part of a small orchard but time had taken its toll on them too.

There was an overgrown laneway leading up to a house that by its design likely was built about seventy years ago. The single pane windows were missing or cracked and the front door had been pulled off its hinges. Inside there was pile of newspapers and magazines from the mid- fifties. I got the distinct feeling that whoever had lived here had left quickly.

We put the quarter up for tender and a local farmer bought it. The first winter he owned it, a Caterpillar was brought in and the land was cleared fenceline to fenceline to accommodate his big air seeder. The house was pushed into a hole and burnt.

I bumped into a friend from that district at Tim Horton’s one day and over coffee asked if he knew the story behind the abandoned farmyard. Apparently the former owner as a young man had come back from Europe with a war bride in tow. They built a new house, planted a shelterbelt and established a garden. One by one three little girls came along until the day a tractor he was driving rolled over on him on the hillside below the house killing him instantly. Shortly thereafter, his wife packed up the children and went to live with relatives in Winnipeg.

I drove by on an early summer morning on my way to another appointment and couldn’t help but smile when I saw the distinct white blossoms of a crab apple tree in the corner of the neighbouring land. The land may be different today but the innocent actions of a bird or fox was providing a fitting monument to a family tragedy!

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- April 20/16- "First Flower of Spring"
19 April 16 10:08 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

First Flower of Spring

For me personally I don’t believe spring has really arrived until I see the crocuses poke their heads above ground. One of our pastures has a steep hillside of undisturbed native grass that faces southeast and the little flowers cover it like a blanket. There is equal pleasure in watching our five year old granddaughter dancing around picking a handful of the best for a table display back home!

Spring is almost always the busiest season of the year in real estate. Sellers want their homes and acreages on the market. Buyers are out and about prospecting for newer houses or lake lots to park their recreational vehicle on.

This year the warmer weather has unfortunately not generated the usual enthusiasm that comes with renewed activity in the oil patch following break up. The energy companies are pinching pennies and production activity has slowed significantly. Many families are barely holding on. Mike and I spend hours every day with clients helping them think through their options.

Although there are literally thousands of square feet of commercial or industrial shop space available to rent in or near the City, it is encouraging to see prospective investors not shying away from looking for opportunities to purchase buildings, particularly those with tenants in place.

These buyers have strong balance sheets, been active in western Canada for years, and know that the economy will eventually rebound. When it does, their capital investment now will later increase by double digits; at which point they will probably sell and go looking for other opportunities.

The same principle applies to multi-family housing. Yes, the landlord may be experiencing some vacancy in their units at the moment but for veteran owners this is a time to refresh the empty apartments using their own talent combined with skilled tradespeople willing to work at reduced rates.

The old saying is true: “money makes money”.

In the farmland arena, on the Alberta side of our region it appears that land values have plateaued somewhat after years of steady, but significant, increases. The Saskatchewan side of the Midwest is still too volatile to predict in my opinion. It comes down to “willing seller, willing buyer.” A location convenient to present holdings is still a prime motivator.

I have often wondered when the day would come that Saskatchewan lands of equal productive value to the cousins across the border will command similar prices. The progression started several years ago with the lease rates on both cropland and pasture. Now it appears to settling in somewhat on the capital side.

However, if you look deep into these groundbreaking prices you will find buyers who have little or no fixed term debt, are still actively farming therefore can easily assimilate a few more acres into their operation, and see land as a stable investment in a world of uncertainty.

In fact, they may not even farm it themselves rather hold it as part of a portfolio like the urban dweller does with their pension plan. Not a bad strategy, as today it returns double what a guaranteed income certificate does and like the commercial buyer, if history is a reliable predictor they can expect a future increase in capital value as well. The Creator isnt making any more land.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- April 13/16- "Service"
13 April 16 08:08 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   


My first job was as a clerk at the local Co-op grocery store weekdays after school and every Saturday. It was quite an adjustment at age 14 going from working on the family farm to taking direction from adults not related to me.

What a great place it was though to learn the finer points of what it takes to keep a job! I had four co-workers, and I learned something fundamental to my future endeavors from each of them. For this I will always be grateful. Why they put up with a free spirited teenager is beyond me, but they did, and along the way I was trained to cope in a world outside of small town Saskatchewan.

Danny was the boss but he didn’t crack a whip, rather appealed to your intelligence with logical explanations. Hard lessons were usually introduced with a story about his prior mistakes. You couldn’t help but like him and want to not ever disappoint.

Mary patiently demonstrated to me how to treat each customer as an individual. To be alert to the mood they came in with and how to give them a little morale boost before leaving. She could have four customers in a line up at the till all laughing and not noticing the time they were waiting to check out their groceries.

Jean worked diligently at keeping the store clean and well presented. It was her who taught me that when a place sparkled it was more inviting and made you proud to be a part of it. She was also quick to point out how short cuts almost never were effective in the long run. I still facecans to the front of the shelf when I am shopping!

Al knew how to have fun yet could describe in detail what every regular customer would want in the meat counter and on what day. His part of the kingdom was at the back of the store and if someone didnt know where to find something he would give quick directions with a smile and nary a complaint. I could also count on him to source me a mickey of rye or a case of beer for those late night weekend adventures with my friends, but only if I promised to stay out of trouble and show up to work on time the next day.

Together they were a great team. Each had his or her own talents that made our store welcoming to the public. They knew there was a direct connection between the quality of the experience and the job they held.

There are places within our region today where the quest to provide quality service comes before profit. Believe me, that is hard to do when presented with a multitude of personalities within a multi-cultural customer base.

As a self-employed Realtor I have to admit there have been times I have not met a customers expectations. The public wants us to be personally available to them most waking hours and every day of the week. However, we are not Wal-Mart. One gentleman phoned me at noon and said I had one hour to get to Paradise Hill if I was going to list his Dads house otherwise he was

going to call someone else. I asked him if he wanted me to supply him with some phone numbers as I dont jump well.

It is not physically or mentally possible to sustain one hundred percent commitment to a job unless of course you are willing to sacrifice all other interactions in your life. Im not. That is the main reason why Mike Dewing and I teamed up twelve years ago; so both of us had a knowledgeable partner who could step up and look after a client while the other spent time with their family.

Technology helps but it also doesnt always help. Instead of phoning, people text. Once an email is sent there is an expectation of a prompt reply. Office hours are a thing of the past. If you answer your phone, it must mean you are at work.

I love working with people. Most of the time. Just not all of the time. Leave me a message. I will get back to you.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- April 6, 2016- "Tiny Houses and Other Unique Homes of the Midwest"
06 April 16 10:00 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Tiny Houses and Other Unique Homes of the Midwest

I was chatting with my hair stylist of many years the other day when she asked me if I had noticed a tiny house on wheels parked beside the highway. We have more opportunity to talk these days during my allotted time as I have less hair to cut but I digress; I admitted that I hadn’t seen that one yet but would make a point of driving by in the near future.

Recalling the conversation on the trip home got me to thinking about all the unique properties out of the 2,000 plus I have had the privilege of representing in my career to date. Some were more challenging to sell than others but eventually most attracted a new owner looking for something unconventional.

There was the young couple who remodeled Dad’s older two bedroom bungalow then built a double garage beside it with a fully self-contained one bedroom apartment in the back for him to live in. Both parties got independent living quarters, heated parking, private patio and yard space, yet they could get together at a moment’s notice for coffee or a meal.

Several years ago a mature couple moved to the Midwest from Atlantic Canada planning to live closer to their grandchildren until retirement. They bought a 480 sq ft derelict house on a large lot, parked the RV beside it, and proceeded to breathe new life into it. Today this “pretty as a picture” cottage is completely restored inside and out, and might I add, offers a very functional use of space that almost anybody could get comfortable in.

We have a lot of recreational properties in the Midwest where the standards that govern development in urban municipalities don’t necessarily apply or aren’t enforced unless it creates a problem for the neighbours. In particular, cabins in some of our lake communities boast some rather interesting guest houses.

The best design I have seen was a modest hip roof shed with a kitchen, living room, and 3pc bathroom on the main plus a loft area above large enough for queen size mattress. French doors opened up to a large wood deck complete with the requisite barbeque on one side and an outdoor fireplace in the corner. Didn’t take much imagination to see my lawn chair there!

We are gradually seeing more “off the grid” get away huts tucked back in the forest. One was set on 80 acres on the edge of an old hay field. It had a state of the art solar array which not only provided lights for the home but also powered the pressure system for the well. Behind it was a dugout stocked with trout. From the upper deck the owner reported seeing a wide variety of wildlife including deer, moose, and the occasional wolf.

I have also been challenged to sell homes with dirt roofs, straw bale walls, and even an attached root cellar. Along the way we have encountered former grow-ops masquerading as herb farms, a meth lab hidden within a barn that housed goats to mask the ever present ammonia smell, and in the case of one acreage operating as an unlicensed abattoir, one of the outbuildings had a 4’ high pile of rotting hides.

Our Group sells our share of luxury homes but not everyone aspires to own the highest priced house in town or at the lake. Some just want a place to be themselves, have room to breathe, and the freedom to live the simple life. Our job as Realtors is not to judge anyone’s lifestyle but to help with transitions. It certainly keeps life interesting!

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- March 30/16- "Negative Talk You Should Ignore When There is Nothing but Opportunity"
29 March 16 08:40 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Negative Talk You Should Ignore When There is Nothing but Opportunity

I have had the privilege to work with a number of successful clients over the course my career both as a Realtor and previously as a management consultant. These good folk share a number of common traits.

Success in any endeavor requires determination, clear goals, and unwavering commitment. It also requires more than a little common sense and an ability to communicate your ideas to stakeholders.

I dont know anyone who has been successful without experiencing setbacks at some point in their life. In fact, a strong sense of who they are and what they stand for is what keeps them driving for the finish line when everybody else is falling off to the side. It is an I wont quitattitude.

I was reminded of this last week when an old friend phoned to tell me he had sold his e-health company to a major international concern. I had the pleasure of working beside his team in the early days of the enterprise back some fifteen plus years ago. It was the best and the worst of times for them Im sure. Exciting to plan a launch of a new product; nerve-wracking not knowing if anyone would actually buy it.

We knew then that what they offered was unique in their space and extremely progressive; so much so it was hard at first to even explain what benefit the intelligent decision making software could bring to prospective users. It was same type of leap forward that third world countries did by foregoing land line telephones in favour of establishing cellular and wireless internet service.

Sometimes you just need to just go around obstacles and not over them.

It can be same in real estate. I am often asked to meet with individuals or couples who want to know if this is the right timeto buy an investment property. Well, does having a stable cash flow, adding personal wealth, and creating scalable business model sound like the right time to you?

Age is not a limiting factor to playing in this game. I have seen college students manage their parentsinvestment in a five-bedroom house near school in exchange for subsidized rent and a share in the capital gain when the property is sold when no longer needed after graduation.

Or the stay at home mother who managed her in-laws’ small apartment building for a share of the rents. One day she and her husband surprised them with an offer, utilizing a combination of bank and vendor take-back financing. Mom and Dad wanted to purchase a property in a warmer climate to retire in so it didnt take long for them to accept.

Cash flow is king. If a deal does not produce a profit, run away and look for a better one. There is always one out there; you just have to find it.

Waiting for the right time is a killer. You should always be looking. Believe me opportunity has a way of finding people open to it. But it is like a butterfly; here one minute, gone the next. More money is made by investors in a buyers market than when the sellers feel in charge.

I am always surprised at how many people lack the confidence to invest in what can be one of the most stable commodities to be found in our country. They often have a wide range of skills and solid equity but still hesitate to commit. As the saying goes, we are all self-made, but only the successful ones among us will admit it!

I believe that some people are actually scared of being successful believing it will make their life unhappy. Money, in and of itself, certainly does not guarantee happiness but it can reduce stress, make you less dependent on an unfulfilling 9 to 5 job, and create options you or loved ones may not otherwise have in life.

Now that is worth investing in!

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- March 23/16- "Private VS Public"
22 March 16 01:00 PM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Private VS Public

We kept track last year; over 400 requests received from non-profit service organizations, sports teams, 4-H clubs, school groups, registered health and education charities, building campaigns, plus a variety of spontaneous fundraising causes for sick children or people who have lost their homes to fire. Not counting everyday approaches to purchase raffle tickets, chocolate bars, muffin mix, etc. All for important activities that support daily life in any community.

Some appeals are dropped off at the office or given to one of our associates. Most are simply mailed to us and to I’m sure several hundred other businesses simultaneously. The more assertive ones request an opportunity to present their case in person.

Most understand one of the fundamental principle of effective communication is that reputation of the messenger is just as important as the message. Dedication and commitment to a cause is hard to say no to especially if the message is delivered by someone you respect and can articulate their reasons for supporting it.

The strained economy we live in is not only testing families but community organizations as well. If history is any indicator the big charities with professional fundraisers on staff will earn the majority of the discretionary dollars. Nobody leaves a legacy in their will to a minor sports team. Cancer research or hospital foundation, sure; boys’ and girls’ after school programs, no.

Personally I think the more worrisome aspect of this is the increasing call for the injection of private funding into what was once considered to be the almost exclusive purview of the public sector or the outright absence of government funding for facilities or programs that one way or another serve to enrich an entire community.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in communities taking the lead in priority setting for what is needed to improve their citizens’ quality of life. But what we are seeing now is a concurrent drive to transfer financial responsibility for what used to be core services to either a user-pay or for-profit system so government can forgo their responsibility.

I get the fact that no one wants a higher tax bill but I feel today’s society celebrates individualism and self-sufficiency over cooperation and community building. In other words, sharing.

Today with an economy that is really struggling, basic needs are not being met in many households. Children are going without adequate dental and vision care. Their parents don’t have grocery money to buy milk and produce never mind enrolling them in activities that will exercise their body and mind.

Don’t believe me? Ask the food bank in Medicine Hat that has reportedly seen a 500% increase in demand or the Men’s Shelter here in Lloydminster that hands out over 80 meals to men, women, and children who come to their door every day for help.

Yes, I know this a real estate column and I am probably stepping over the fences, so to speak. But I believe we need to discuss more openly what we can do to help our friends and neighbours

make it through these tough times. Too often I hear “well if they had just put away money in the last boom!” or “I won’t hire an oilfield worker for my farm because they will just leave when their old job returns!”. This is not a time to be critical of the past behavior but to help people have faith that the future will be better.

Many good folks have been hurt. Spend a week with me as I sit at their kitchen table or in my office helping them think through their options. I know a number of local lawyers and accountants are experiencing the same demands.

If there is just one cause our region should get behind in 2016 is putting our people to work, even if it’s only a temporary or part-time commitment.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- March 16/16- "Client Partnerships"
16 March 16 08:43 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Client Partnerships

I don’t care what business or occupation you are in, the healthiest relationships are built on trust, mutual respect, and good communication.

Our Group is blessed to have a number of clients who we would nominate into the Real Estate Hall of Fame if there was such an organization. Mike and I always look forward to talking to them, willingly take their calls any day of the week, occasionally sit down to break bread together to plan strategy for the coming year or to simply swap war stories of the business.

Yes, at its core we work for them but it goes deeper than that. They freely share their business and life goals, ask penetrating questions about the market, provide us with insight from their perspective as active players in the game, and often make us reach deep into our experience as Realtors and fellow business persons.

I would call it a mutual education opportunity. They are all self-made people who have worked hard to get where they are. Without fail, their values shine through in all decisions whether it be how they negotiate to the way others in the industry, bankers, lawyers, tenants, buyers, or sellers are treated.

Contrary to much of the literature on building wealth through real estate, one does not have to be a shark in order to be successful. Nor do you have to be an uncaring, slum landlord. Good business can be just that, good business.

In one of our meetings last fall, we had shared our observation that the rental vacancy rate was climbing in the region as people left the community to return to their home provinces or went in search of work elsewhere. The client thought that over and decided to voluntarily cut his apartment rents. He reported this week that he has been successful at keeping almost all of his tenants while some of his friends were experiencing significant turnover.

It really helps us when acting as someones go-toRealtor to fully understand the process our client wants to go through before making a final decision on whether to buy or not. Some like to buy homes with good bones, then fix them up targeting the type of renter they want to have. They have the same open relationship with the home inspector, electrician, and plumber as we experience. All are on the advisory team!

Others want more of a turnkey type property, that may only need a fresh coat of paint before putting a tenant in place. Condominium units are often appealing to them because there is no worry about exterior maintenance.

I enjoy working with the serial developers as well. Some just want to create bare parcels of land with the basic utilities in place and leave the construction to the buyer. Others sell their lots by building a house on them that is attractive to the mainstream market in the community.

We have participated in a number of recreation property developments over the years and have learned that beauty indeed is in the eye of the beholder. A client of mine for more than a decade

has put this rule into practice ensuring he has lake lots available located both in the trees or in the open. While one buyer may want to relax under the spruce, another wants to tan in full sun.

At the end of the day our goal is to ensure that a clients investment in real estate is operating a smoothly as possible. We can do nothing about the ups and downs of the local economy but we do stand beside our clients, help smooth out the bumps a bit, and try to enjoy the journey together.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- March 9/16- "Leadership Under Fire"
10 March 16 11:33 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Leadership Under Fire

I am entering my 45th year of employment; three years part-time during high school and 42 as an adult. My principal was quite upset that I didnt choose to go to university after graduation but frankly I just couldnt see myself in a classroom for another four or five years.

Over the years I have had the honor of meeting some very good people and being given the opportunity to draw upon their wisdom or to observe how they handle adversity. I have also had my share of less than stellar encounters with individuals, even groups, that make me glad that I dont have to live their world view on a daily basis.

It is often said that you learn best from your mistakes. That may be true, but if one is willing to listen more than speak, you can often get nuggets of gold where you least expect them. This past Sunday on my way to help celebrate Bob Houghams 90th birthday at the Frenchman Butte Hall, I couldnt help but think of a short but softly spoken lecture he gave me twenty plus years ago.

Bob was a volunteer director of a health board I worked for at that time. He had a unique perspective gained from being both a rancher and municipal administrator. This day Bob and I had travelled to meet with Chief and Council of the Onion Lake Cree Nation in an attempt to solicit their input on a proposed regional health system.

Unfortunately, we were advised on arrival that our appointment was to be postponed in favour of a surprise visit to the community from the head of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. In non-aboriginal society, this would be equivalent to the Premier dropping in for lunch. You dont say no. So we acknowledged the importance of the meeting to the First Nation and we headed back home.

I think I must have been ranting about the stresses associated with trying to merge 16 health organizations into one not so happy family because when we arrived at Bobs house, he told me quite firmly to shut the truck off and come for a walk with him. Now if you have never been to where he and Joyce live, picture this.

The North Saskatchewan River comes out of the west and makes a rather sharp turn to the south. The Houghamshouse is on the east bank with a million-dollar view. Bob has only one leg so I felt somewhat sheepish as he made his way down the bank on crutches with me following him to a lookout. He turned to me and said quite seriously Vern, what do you see?

Puzzled but nevertheless I was taught to respect my elders so I described the hill in the mist far to the west with the features of the countryside in between, but not understanding why he asked me to state what was obvious to both of us.

As we both looked over the scene and soaking in the peacefulness of the setting, he said Your job as a leader is never lose sight of that hill even while helping your people get across this river, through the wetlands, trees, and fields in between. It is a long march but if you dont know where you are going, how will those that depend on you get there?

And with that he went up to the house leaving me there watching the hawks and swallows flying overhead and the gently flowing water below. Not another word was said. It didnt have to be. His message was very clear.

Today in our depressed local economy families are being challenged to find a way forward; to not lose hope. As a Realtor, my colleagues and I are working our tails off trying to help people to think logically through their options but also to lift their head to that misty hill in the distance. Together we will make it.

Happy Birthday, Bob! Thanks for treasure you shared with me.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- March 2, 2016- "Some Insight into Organized Real Estate"
01 March 16 10:07 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Some Insight into Organized Real Estate

When you have worked in real estate for a number of years it is easy to take for granted your customers know the fundamental operating practices of the business. However, a phone call this past week reminded me that isn’t always the case. This column is an attempt to explain certain aspects of organized real estate you may not be aware of.

The multiple listing system is a cooperative agreement between the member brokerages of a regional real estate board that allows the sharing of information about properties for sale or lease. The Board bylaws and regulations form the rules for negotiations on transactions related to those properties between member brokerages and their personnel.

This unique and progressive arrangement between competitors is designed to help all stakeholders who want to have professional representation in their real estate dealings. Imagine if you could sit down at the Ford store and review what the available inventory is at the GM, Chev, Nissan, Toyota, Jeep-Chrysler, and other dealerships in town including asking price? How powerful would that be? May not be as much fun as driving through the parking lots though.

Take it a step further. Let’s say you are interested in a property listed on the MLS system by one of us at RE/MAX Lloydminster, but want to use a Realtor working with Century21 to represent you in purchasing it. Good news! In the MLS listing contract, the owner has already directed us to cooperate with your agent, and in fact, sets out the compensation that Realtor and his / her brokerage will receive for their time and effort spent with you.

The MLS.ca online system we enjoy in Canada allows the public to access basic information on any property that is placed in a multiple listing service by a member Realtor of the Canadian Real Estate Association. My membership dues in the national association, along with thousands of agents across the country, makes that possible. Although a free service to you the customer it is definitely not to me but I believe it is worth every penny invested.

Not all agents can use the trademark “Realtor” nor are all brokerages members of their local real estate board. But all agents and brokerages practicing in a province are subject to extensive licensing standards and oversight. If any member of the public has a concern about a registrant’s compliance with provincial legislation, they can make an inquiry to the respective Council or Commission.

A significant portion of our team’s work is in the area between Lloydminster and the Battlefords; from northern lakes in the Bronson and Meadow Lake forests to farmland near Unity in the south. It is an area served by agents from a number of communities so a half-dozen years ago we chose to also become a member of the Saskatoon Real Estate Board simply so our Group could provide better information on properties within this shared territory to clients. Again an additional operating cost for the team, but we see it as a worthwhile service nevertheless.

Lloydminster is a bi-provincial regulatory environment and one requirement is that all Realtors registered with brokerages located here must maintain licensure in both Alberta and Saskatchewan.

This means my colleagues in the City and I must bear twice the cost that registrants in any other region in the country in order to practice here. Plus, twice the time spent in mandatory professional development programs. And for my business partner, Mike Dewing, currently president of the Realtors Association of Lloydminster and District, twice as many meetings with the provincial associations. Ah, you got to love life on the edge!

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- February 24, 2016- "Beauty on the Inside"
23 February 16 10:53 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Beauty on the Inside

Last week we talked about identifying what needs to be done to improve the exterior and foundation of an old house. So now that you have walked all the way around it and made notes for later estimates, it is time to spend some time inside.

Sure you are ready? Because I can tell you from personal experience there may be surprises in an older structure that may challenge your belief in mankind. Mostly kidding, but honestly friends I have been in homes that leave me wondering how anyone could possibly live in them.

One gentleman used to cover the *** from his cats with newspapers until he had a layer “cake” several inches thick and an ammonia smell that would immediately clear any one’s sinuses. Another sent his big dog down in the basement to do his business on cold days; the open stairwell was also handy for disposing of used pizza boxes. A third let her parrot fly unrestricted through the house while she was at work. It didn’t always bomb on target.

Disgusting situations aside, the first thing I like to do is to simply walk through the entire house just to assess its overall condition and scope of rehabilitation that will likely be needed. I want to generally get a feel for the place. Is the layout something that will work for your intended use respecting that most walls can be moved but is the footprint practical?

I often tell my listing clients that preparing a home for showing to prospective buyers is like dating, first impressions count. A house can be well used but is it clean? If someone has cared enough to keep it tidy, then there is better chance that normal maintenance has occurred during their occupancy. On the other hand, if I see a lot of patches, incomplete or shoddy handyman work, burnt out light bulbs, etc. what other problems will we find behind those walls?

Assess the level of rehab required; just Mr. Clean followed by paint and flooring, or does it need electrical, plumbing, cabinetry, and fixtures as well? Always keep in mind that just because you have the skill and money to renovate a house doesn’t mean you should buy it. In fact, almost all of our clients that regularly take on project houses will go away after a viewing to think about it for a while, prepare a plan, then come back often with a trusted contractor in tow, and take a more thorough tour.

I strongly recommend that once you own a house that the first person you bring on site is a licensed electrician. You certainly want to ensure the property is safe. Secondly, if he has to re- route wiring and make some holes, you can patch before painting. And lastly, to install new outlets, switches, and light fixtures. A rather inexpensive touch but one that you or the next owner will really appreciate are ceiling fans in the bedrooms.

We cannot emphasize enough the need to brighten up the interior of an older home particularly if you plan on re-selling it. It often comes with dark wood cabinetry and trim that can be made look modern simply by applying several coats of quality paint. The other rule of thumb is kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, so make sure you allocate adequate dollars there. And oh, have fun!

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- February 17, 2016- "This Old House"
16 February 16 10:27 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

This Old House

Organized villages started appearing in the Midwest alongside the railroads from 1903 on. The oldest house I have sold in the region so far was built in 1910. There are many two storey structures dating back to the 1920s’ that came on a rail car as a complete building package ordered through the Eaton’s catalogue or from the Aladdin Company.

In the country, a lot of these houses were paid for as a result of several good years of wheat production, while in town they were purchased by doctors, hotelkeepers, storeowners, and other prominent business people.

I always enjoy looking at these classic properties but obviously some are in much better condition today than others. If you take one on for your own be prepared for surprises, good and bad. Look for a good foundation, for without one, there is no use spending money on the rest. The top priority should be the bottom (pun intended).

When down in the basement take a flashlight, first look up, then around. How level are the floor joists? Are they properly supported? If you wonder about the grey thin layer of what appears to be mud that shows the board was first used to crib the cement walls of the basement, stripped off, then re-purposed.

Does the subfloor go diagonally across the top of the joists or at a 90’ angle? My grandfather, a master carpenter apprenticed in Scotland, used to say that you could always tell the quality of workmanship to expect in the rest of the house by how the floor was made. In the days of handsaws, lazy builders would butt the 1” x 6” boards to one outside edge and proceed across the joists to the other side thereby avoiding having to make long cuts around the perimeter.

In contrast, craftsmen would set the floorboards on an angle thereby tying the base together as a web which of course necessitated hand sawing all four sides at the sill. I guarantee you that the house with this type of construction practice will be stronger and straighter than the other.

Now go outside. Too many buyers look only at the design of the interior while virtually ignoring the condition of the shell. If you can’t stop moisture from infiltrating, whether it be rain, snow, or runoff, nature will ravage the structure.

Unless it was installed later in life there will likely be no weeping tile around the footings on a house built in this area prior to the mid-1960s so landscaping and eaves-trough drainage should be the first consideration. Trim back encroaching foliage and take out flowerbeds that act as sponges along the basement walls. Install a sump pump in the basement floor with a pipe leading out to the yard.

Then take on the roof. Straighten and support sagging rafters. Replace sheathing where needed. If you open up the roof you may take the opportunity to create proper crossflow ventilation in the attic plus add some insulation.

The windows and doors likely need replacing. While doing that consider using a wider jamb and adding an extra layer of Styrofoam insulation on the outside wall before re-siding. Now you have an energy efficient shell and work can start on the inside. The fun is just beginning!

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- February 3, 2016-" Phrases That Make a Realtor Cringe"
02 February 16 10:26 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Phrases That Make a Realtor Cringe

Hang around this business long enough and you will learn a few phrases that will immediately send a chill down the spine of any veteran Realtor.

“Money is no problem!” No problem as in don’t worry because I really don’t have any? Or as in it’s no problem because your dad (or mom) has lots and he (she) has always bailed you out in the past?

When I hear this statement I am reminded of the two months plus of work I put in holding a million-dollar multi-family apartment building deal together while the self-described investor buyer bounced from bank to bank allegedly shopping for a better interest rate and terms while in reality nobody wanted his business due to a long string of missed commitments, stretched to the limit financing, and a general disregard for keeping his word.

“The house is out of our price range but can we see it anyway?” Sure I love to donate my time and abuse the goodwill of the owner while you fantasize about living in a home a hundred thousand dollars over your budget. If you want to see how people wealthier than you live, do what the rest of us do and subscribe to HGTV or buy a magazine at the drugstore.

I know we have seen a few homes already (over forty but whos counting?) but do you think we could see this one that has just been listed?” Sure, why not. You wanted three bedrooms on the main level for you and hubby plus toddler and let’s not forget the baby on the way. This one is a two bedroom up, two bedroom down bi-level; that is why I didn’t call you about it when it came on MLS. It simply doesn’t meet your needs.

Hubby also said that no garage was a deal killer and this one sits on a narrow lot with no room for one. I dont know if you noticed but it is located on the Alberta side of the city; and your employer expects you to live in Saskatchewan. Ah well, I didn’t want to watch my daughter play her volleyball semi-final game tonight anyway plus I really have too much time invested in you to walk away now.

“This cabin has been in the family for over fifty years and my sisters want to sell it!” So I take it you don’t? Too many memories of summers spent swimming, hanging out with cousins, and romance around late evening campfires? I get that, I really do but don’t ask buyers to compensate you for emotional pain. Same advice applies to the home quarter that was once the headquarters of the family farm and is now a yardsite overgrown with caragana. Try to look at the property through the eyes of a buyer and price it realistically.

“I want to list higher than you recommend, after all we can always go down!” The only advantage to doing this accrues to the other similar properties priced below yours. If you do get a showing it will be only for the buyer to confirm that the neighbour’s home is a better deal. Realtors have a very explicit name for this type of property in the marketplace but this is a family column so I won’t print it here. If you want to call me though I will happy to share the term with you.

“We are going to offer significantly less that you recommend and see if they are motivated enough to bite!” This strategy ranks right up there with the one outlined above. All you are going to do is make the seller mad; and upset sellers are as much fun as getting between a hungry grizzly and his dinner.

Sometimes sellers simply walk away refusing to engage in any further negotiation calling the buyer an idiot. Others counter with a minute reduction, essentially giving the buyer a slap in the face. Either way, it creates an unnecessary impediment to further discussion between two parties who probably otherwise may have been able to come to agreeable compromise. The best advice I can give you when employing this strategy is to put your best offer forward right at the beginning, and be prepared for whatever result it gets you, good or bad.

“I know today is Sunday but do you think we could get back in the house we have an accepted offer on? Mom and Dad are here visiting and they would really like to see it.” First of all, I have a family too and we also like to spend quality time together. Secondly, respect that the seller has a life to lead and with the upcoming transition in two weeks is probably busy packing and unless they have moved out already certainly dont want to have people in the way. Honestly, your parents can wait to see it when you get the keys on the day of possession. Better yet, they can help you move and buy the pizza.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.wesellmidwest.ca, or follow the team on Facebook at Midwest Group Lloydminster. 

Midwest Minute- January 27, 2016- "Time for a Fresh Outlook"
26 January 16 09:43 AM | Vern McClelland | 0 Comments   

Time for a Fresh Outlook

One thing about being in your seventh decade of life is that having made it this far gives you some perspective about what is really important. Working in real estate is like many other professions that depend on an active economy; Realtors need both motivated buyers and sellers in order to earn a living. Yes, these aren’t the best of times in my practice financially but frankly I’ve been too busy consulting with families about their options to let myself get down.

It is said that one learns by your mistakes. If that is the case I should have a PHD, maybe several. I try to live life without regrets but everyone stumbles once in a while! What really is important is striving to have a healthy body, attitude, and relationships.

The deep of winter in the Midwest gives a person time to assess those things that contribute to personal wellbeing and what is toxic. There is nothing like a -30c wind chill outside to make one appreciate shelter. Not everyone has a home, much less a warm one, so if you do, count that as a blessing.

In the course of my daily work I encounter many individuals who want to work and support their families but have been told recently by their employer they are no longer needed. Doesn’t matter who you are, that hurts.

When I see hope fading in a person I can’t help but think of a gentleman I ran into earlier this winter. He had stopped by our office with some flyers advertising his willingness to shovel snow, move furniture, remove junk, or do general handyman work for clients any day of the week.

Turns out one of our sellers had moved away the month before and it was the day before possession by the new owner so we asked him on the spot if he could look after the neglected driveway and sidewalk for us. He phoned three hours later to say it was done so I told him to come back down to the office for a cheque.

While I was settling up with him, we took time to chat. Turns out he and a buddy had both been laid off in the patch so they decided to pick up whatever odd jobs they could while searching for steady employment. With a lopsided grin he told me that snowshovelling and cleaning out garages wasn’t glorious work but so far it was keeping groceries on the table and made him tired enough at night he didn’t lay awake worrying about things!

The other day I stopped in at a local gas station to fill up the truck and grab a cup of coffee before heading out of town to look at an acreage. That same gentleman was pumping gas, with his trademark smile. Turns out he had been clearing the sidewalk for an elderly couple when their adult son came along, liked his work ethic and attitude, and asked him if he would like fulltime employment.

Too many times we get sucked into comparing personal circumstances with our perceptions at how others are doing. What is important is convincing yourself to keep going forward, one step

at a time. I am convinced more than ever that opportunity always finds people with talent and faith in their future.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster and a partner with the Midwest Group. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700 or through www.wesellmidwest.ca 

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